Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Drift: Art and Dark Matter

Purple, green, orange, and blue image

Works by

Nadia Lichtig, Josèfa Ntjam, Anne Riley, and Jol Thoms

Abstract image of dark blue, back, white, and red shapes
Photograph of hanging metal diamond object
Photograph of dark room with three screens and vertical green object

Drift: Art and Dark Matter

May 11–October 8, 2022

Curated by Sunny Kerr

Justina M. Barnicke Gallery

An invisible matter is having a gravitational effect on everything. Without the gravity of this “dark” matter, galaxies would fly apart. Observational data in astroparticle physics indicate that it exists, but so far dark matter hasn’t been detected directly.

Given the contours of such an unknown, artists Nadia Lichtig, Josèfa Ntjam, Anne Riley, and Jol Thoms reflect on the “how” and “why” of physics and art as diverse and interrelating practices of knowledge. Through their transdisciplinary exchanges with scientists, the artists have created artworks—sculpture, installation, textile and video—that emerge as multi-sensory agents in the search for an experience of dark matter.

Drift: Art and Dark Matter is a residency and exhibition project organized by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, in partnership with the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and SNOLAB, the Stonecroft Foundation, George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund, and the City of Kingston Arts Fund through the Kingston Arts Council. Four artists of national and international stature were invited to make new work while engaging with physicists, chemists, and engineers contributing to the search for dark matter at SNOLAB’s facility in Sudbury, two kilometres below the surface of the Earth.

The title “Drift” comes from the mining term for a horizontal tunnel, in this case the hot underground passageway in the copper and nickel mine stretching between the elevator and the clean lab spaces of SNOLAB. The project thereby begins from a consideration of the forms and energies that connect research to labour, landscapes, cultures, and histories.

Curatorial Tour with Sunny Kerr

Saturday, September 17, 1pm–2pm
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Curator Sunny Kerr (Agnes Etherington Art Centre) will lead a tour of the exhibition, exploring how Drift’s artists approach dark matter.

Dark Matter and Metaphor: A Panel Discussion on Art and Astrophysics

Wednesday, September 21, 6pm–8pm
Online on Zoom
A panel discussion about astrophysics and its interdisciplinary potentials, featuring U of T astrophysicists Renée Hložek, Miriam Diamond, and David Curtin; and art-and-science researcher Elvira Hufschmid.
Watch Recording

Keynote Lecture: Karen Barad

Wednesday, September 28, 6pm–8pm
Online on Zoom
Physicist and theorist Karen Barad (University of California, Santa Cruz), whose influential cross-disciplinary writings inspired many of Drift’s conceptual directions, presents a keynote lecture on the concepts of touch and alterity.

Exhibition Resources

Press Release
Exhibition review on The Varsity
Educator’s Guide
Exhibition Documentation


Virtual Spotlight

“Two Moons?”: The Shifting Terrain of Art and Science

Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council.





Agnes Etherington Art Centre logo

Astroparticle Physics symbol